AN allotment association has joined forces with the police to help weed out thefts from its plots.

The Bellburn Lane allotments have become the first in Darlington to sign up with Durham Constabulary’s Allotment Watch initiative.

The scheme, which works in a similar way to Neighbourhood Watch, was first launched in Ferryhill and participating allotments saw a 46 per cent reduction in crime.

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Paul Richmond, secretary of the Bellburn Lane Allotment Association, says he hopes that the initiative will prove equally successful in deterring thieves in Darlington.

He said: “We have had, on and off, problems with thefts on the site; one guy had 15 occurrences over a two-year period.

“Most times it is nothing of significant value, but it is just a bit annoying when you go down to your plot and find that your tools are missing.”

As part of the scheme, Bellburn allotment holders are being encouraged to paint their belongings with bright blue paint which the police have registered to the association.

Smartwater security marking kits are also being offered at a subsidised price, and a police officer has visited the allotment to offer plot-holders advice on keeping their belongings secure.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman is supporting Allotment Watch and recently visited the site to officially launch the initiative at Bellburn Lane.